MIKE ANDREWS, a six-term congressman, is abandoning a safe seat as a state representative to run in the Democratic primary for the United States Senate and, he hopes, in the general election against Republican incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison.
On Saturday, Mr. Andrews met with perhaps the most Democratic audience in the most Democratic part of Texas: the Black Women's Political Caucus in minority dominated east Austin.
Predicting the costliest race ever, Andrews said: ``We're going to have to run very hard to win.'' Indeed, Democrats will, if the audience of seven caucus members is an indication. In June's special election, Mrs. Hutchison got two-thirds of the vote. The race to recapture the Senate seat that Democrats held for 12 decades is ``a defining moment for our party,'' Andrews says.
The first hurdle is the March 8 primary, in which Andrews faces Richard Fisher, a millionaire who advised Ross Perot during his presidential run, and Jim Mattox, a formercongressman and state attorney general.
The candidates also debated health care and collecting child-support payments before Texas Democratic Women members.
``We cannot win if we appeal only to the Democratic base,'' Andrews says. The party must appeal to ``middle-class, moderate, common-sense voters,'' but he cautions: ``The Republicans won't lack for financial resources.''
The key to victory, Mr. Fisher says, will be voters who helped elect Governor Richards - independents and Republican women.
Fisher spent $2.1 million of his own money to run in the special election. Though he finished fifth, he kept campaigning with the fall election in mind.
Counters Mr. Mattox: ``Probably, the most important issue in the [primary] race is Fisher's money. He has tremendous wealth, nothing else.''
Has Hutchison's acquittal Friday on ethics charges made her invincible? Mattox says: ``Remember a guy named George Bush who, at one time, was rated higher than any other president ever had been? He is not now the president.''